News from the U.S. Province

Fr. David Thayer interviewed on Catholic Baltimore

Fr. David Thayer, P.S.S., senior researcher on the French School in the Sulpician Tradition, was interviewed for the Catholic Baltimore radio program that aired on March 29, 2020. Mr. George Matysek, Digital Editor for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, was the host.  The topic was the French School of Spirituality.

You may listen to Fr. Thayer's interview by clicking the audio button below.

You may listen to the whole program by visiting this link: Catholic Baltimore Podcast. (Link opens in a new tab or window.)

Fr. John E. McMurry Celebrates 89th Birthday

Fr. John E. McMurry, P.S.S., celebrated his 89th birthday on March 19, 2020, at Villa Olier with his confreres. Fr. McMurry was thankful for the celebration and for his delicious birthday cake. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there were no family or friends present for the celebration. 

Obituary: Richard Brian MacDonough, P.S.S.


February 26, 1935 – March 10, 2020

Born February 26, 1935, and raised in Brewer, ME, Fr. MacDonough was one of three children of John and Flavilla (nee Goody) MacDonough. He is survived by his brother, John, and sister, Jane.

Fr. MacDonough was educated in Brewer parochial schools. He earned his B.A. at Assumption College, Worcester, MA (1956) and then entered St. Mary’s Seminary & University where he earned the S.T.B in 1958 and the S.T.L. in 1960. He was ordained for the Diocese of Portland, ME on May 12, 1960. He immediately joined the Society of St. Sulpice and was admitted as a member in 1963.

As a Sulpician candidate (1960-1962), Fr. MacDonough’s first assignment was to teach French and to direct the choir at St. Edward’s High School, Kenmore, WA. After teaching at St. Edward’s for two years, Fr. MacDonough attended the Sulpician Solitude program in Baltimore from 1962-1963. He then began teaching at the college level at St. Thomas Seminary, Louisville, KY. He prepared himself to teach at the college level by studying English and French as his specialty. He earned the M.A. in French from Laval University, Quebec, Canada in 1962. After continuing his studies through the summers, he earned his Ph.D. in French from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY in 1971.

At St. Thomas Seminary, he taught French, English, speech, and art appreciation. He remained at St. Thomas Seminary until it closed in 1970. He came back to Baltimore to St. Mary’s Seminary & University, Liberal Arts College in Catonsville, MD from 1971-1978. There he served as Academic Dean and taught French, speech, and art appreciation. He then went west to St. Patrick’s College (1978-1982), subsequently called St. Joseph’s College, Mountain View, CA (1982-1990). Again, he served as Academic Dean and taught speech, history, English, theology, art appreciation, and general humanities.

As Academic Dean in both Catonsville and Mountain View, Fr. MacDonough acquired the reputation of being a strong advocate for keeping high academic standards. In his characteristic conscientious manner, he followed through on this goal by the way he showed a special interest in the academic growth of each student.

After St. Joseph’s College was damaged by the 1989 earthquake, and the Sulpicians had no other colleges to which he could be assigned, Fr. MacDonough’s love for seminary formation enabled him to take a position on the faculty of a non-Sulpician seminary, St. John’s Seminary College, Camarillo, CA. He found a new home in the community of St. John’s Seminary where he lived out his teaching and Sulpician ministry as a full-time faculty member from 1991-2004.

While teaching at St. John’s, he was able to complete two articles on his relative, the early Sulpician missionary Fr. François Ciquard (1754-1824): “The Missionary in Spite of Himself: François Ciquard” and “François Ciquard, S.S.: Missionary to the Maine Indians (1792-94).” In the September, 1999 issue of La Société historique acadienne: Les Cahiers, he published a lengthy article that became incorporated into his book, The “Apostolic Missionary”: François Ciquard, His Life and Memoirs, (2005). His research and writing combined his three loves: the history of St. Sulpice, French, and the history of Maine.

Fr. MacDonough so loved southern California that he decided to retire there in 2005, but he continued to serve in a part-time position for St. John’s College Seminary as an adjunct spiritual director until 2015, when he brought his ministry as a seminary formator to a close. A serious setback from prostate cancer in the summer of 2018 brought him back to Catonsville, MD to the Sulpician retirement community, Villa Olier, in September 2018.

While at the Villa, his prostate cancer continued to advance slowly but relentlessly. For as long as he could, he enjoyed contributing to the community life by playing the organ for Mass on occasion and by joining his confreres for the evening socials and a glass of wine. Eventually he became wheelchair-bound and admitted to home hospice at the Villa on September 11, 2019.

Fr. MacDonough died on March 10, 2020and was buried on March 14, 2020 in the Sulpician cemetery in Catonsville, MD following the funeral liturgy in the Chapel of Villa Olier. At his Mass of the Resurrection, the Provincial, Very Rev. John C. Kemper, P.S.S. presided, Fr. David Thayer, P.S.S., General Consultor and colleague at both St. Mary’s Liberal Arts College and St. Joseph’s College, Mountain View, CA, preached the homily, and the Director of the Villa, Fr. Dan Doherty, P.S.S. led the committal service at the graveside.

Fr. MacDonough heard, as did the Psalmist, that the Lord would teach him the way he should go and counsel him lovingly. In the imitation of how the Lord taught and counseled him, so did Fr. MacDonough teach and counsel throughout his Sulpician ministry. Teaching was his first love. He regretted that he could never use his advanced degrees to teach upper level courses in the college, but he remained deeply committed to the ministry of seminary formation. Those who knew him as a demanding teacher and wise counselor in those formative years of college hold a special place for Fr. MacDonough in their hearts.

TC Providence Hall

Theological College Providence Hall Renovation and Blessing

Fr. John C. Kemper, Provincial Superior, blessing the newly renovated Providence Hall. Assisting are Deacons Mak Garrett (left) and Ryan Hiaeshutter (right), both from the Diocese of Dallas, Texas.

Theological College now offers separate accommodations in its Providence Hall annex for eight student priests, who will enjoy the support and privileges of the seminary community while living in the renovated residence.

Previously, Theological College extended hospitality to priests striving to complete JCL,  STL, and other degrees at The Catholic University of America. More recently, the School of Theology and Religious Studies (STRS) crafted a five-year STL program with degree specializations in biblical, historical, systematic, liturgical, sacramental, and moral theology. Participants in this program will return  after ordination for their final year to earn an STL. As the fifth-year program was coming together in 2017 and 2018 under the direction of STRS’s Rev. Msgr. Michael Clay, Associate Dean for Graduate Ministerial Studies, Theological College’s Sulpician leaders faced space and comfort concerns for the expected increase in ordained program candidates. Very Rev. John Kemper, Provincial Superior, and Rev. Gerald McBrearity, TC Rector, were helped by Tim Murphy, TC Facilities Manager, to consider the Providence Hall annex.

For many years, Apple Tree Institute for Education Innovation had been renting the third and fourth floors of Providence Hall. In September 2018, it found a bigger, more cohesive space elsewhere in D.C. With the expertise of Suzanne Giguere of Corkill Cush Reeves Architects, plans were drafted for the vacated space: eight rooms with private baths, plus a communal kitchenette and an extra bathroom. Ms. Giguere spent several days analyzing, measuring, and floating ideas for the most efficient use of this century-old space. Providence Hall was formerly the convent for the Sisters of the Congregation of Divine Providence, who served the domestic needs of the Sulpician Fathers and TC seminarians for almost 70 years, from 1918 to 1986.

Buch Construction, which had handled several McCormick Pavilion office space renovations, was the general contractor. According to Tim Murphy, “The biggest hurdle was to get the drawings approved by the D.C. government; we were happy to clear this hurdle with the city to begin work in November.” Other challenges included issues with asbestos removal, meticulously accomplished by Buch workers. Some of the old flooring and floor joists also had to be replaced. The contractors were able to finish the project in five months, leaving plenty of time before August for final details, such as furniture selection.

At the end of Theological College’s Orientation Week on August 24, the first full day that all students were in house to begin the 2019-2020 school year, the TC population witnessed a milestone event: the dedication of Providence Hall by Fr. Kemper. This year, the rooms will be occupied by three newly ordained TC alumni (from the Diocese of Rockville Centre and Archdioceses of New York and Washington) and one graduate of the North American College (Diocese of Rockville Centre), all of whom  will be studying at Catholic University for a final year to complete their S.T.L. degrees. They will be joined in Providence Hall by three JCL candidates—two from the TC classes of 2015 (Diocese of Fort Worth) and 2017 (Archdiocese of Louisville) and one from  the Diocese of Raleigh—as well as one Maryknoll- sponsored priest from China.

While the resident priests of Providence Hall accompanied Fr. Kemper through the house to a  room with a balcony, the seminarians participated by gathering below the balcony where the dedication was taking place. The unique parallel between the former and current occupants of Providence Hall, including the Sisters’ mission in service of the formation of future priests and the mission of the priests’ being further educated to serve the people of God, highlights a providential historical continuum worthy of the profound blessings offered by Fr. Kemper for the house and the Sedes Sapietiae statues placed in the rooms.

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Sulpicians Gather

Sulpicians Gather

New definitive members (from left) Frs. Eugene Mwanza, PSS, Jaime Robledo, PSS, and Martin Burnham, PSS

Last spring, the members of the U.S. Province gathered for a week of spiritual renewal, ongoing education, and provincial business at the Archbishop Brunett Center along Puget Sound in Federal Way, Washington, from May 25 to 30.

On Memorial Day we had a special prayer service to remember three of our members who recently died—Frs. Jim Tucker, Cale Crowley, and Joe Ky. We also had a rite of welcome during our closing Mass to receive three new candidates (Frs. Shawn Gould, Neil Mulyata, and Carlos Piedrahita), to recognize four members advancing to temporary membership (Frs. Brian Carpenter, PSS, Dominic Ciriaco, PSS, Joseph Chamwaza, PSS, and Emmanuel Ichidi, PSS), and three who became definitive members (Frs. Martin Burnham, PSS, Eugene Mwanza, PSS, and Jaime Robledo, PSS).

During the rite of welcome, Fr. Anthony Pogorelc, PSS, the Director of Initial Formation, preached a homily addressing the question, “To what are we welcoming them?” He went on to say that we are welcoming them: to “work together for the mission of Christ Jesus,” to a small group of diocesan priests  who “are like disciples in a small boat and must coordinate with one another lest the boat be overturned,” to a mission that “opens us to great joy and great suffering [and] even when we have done our very best we may be dismissed, scoffed at and put off,” and, to a “striving Society” seeking to be “collaborators in both word and deed” to make the synodality of which Pope Francis speaks and which is found in our tradition “part of our ongoing practice.”

The spiritual renewal took us back to the dynamics of the early Church as seen through the characters of Peter and Paul as portrayed in the Easter readings from the Acts of the Apostles. Reflecting on their courage, their capacity to challenge one another, and their creative spirit to solidify the beginnings of the Church were sources of new inspiration for our own mission.

For our ongoing education, we moved from the first century church to the twenty-first with its pervasive influence of the internet. Fr. Ray Carey, a clinical psychologist well known among religious communities for his work on assessment and evaluation of candidates, presented the research on the effects that regular use of the internet has on the way our minds work. By referencing studies on the regular viewing of online pornography and video gaming, he described the phenomenon of neural plasticity, the modifications in the way the brain functions as a result of frequent exposure to a virtual world.

For a community like ours that is very interested in the new generation of seminarians, Fr. Carey’s presentation of the research was very timely and informative, if not shocking. No longer are we drawing candidates from a world where neighbors knew each other’s names and families ate dinner together.

The digital age is marked by anonymity that creates social isolation. Growing up in the digital age makes it convenient to immerse ourselves in a stimulating  virtual world that can be psychologically and socially damaging. Fr. Carey underscored the potential that regular internet exposure can have on developing one’s emotional intelligence and social skills.

Research shows that too much exposure to gaming and pornography is associated with increased aggression, desensitization to violence, and an overall decrease in motivation and an ability to relate to   others empathically. These aspects of our digital world should make anyone in formation take notice.

So what to do with these insights? As Fr. Carey reminded us, insights do not change behavior. Only behavior changes behavior. So we need to change our internet use, its frequency, intensity, and the conditions that surround our going online.

Such a heavy agenda for the week was offset by the serenity of being along Puget Sound, and enjoying its quiet in the fellowship of our confreres. For us Sulpicians who share a common vision, mission, and ministry but live so far apart, this week is precious. It gives us an opportunity to strengthen bonds of fraternity among confreres gathered from across the country, as well as from our African Mission a half a world away.